Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Less, by Andrew Sean Greer

            Arthur Less is a novelist who has gained minor fame, first for being the lover (when he was young and beautiful) of a much older Pulitzer-Prize winning poet (Arthur was entrusted by the poet’s wife to teach the illustrious man how to swim, a fateful decision), then for his own literary efforts, which are hardly in the same league.  Still, he has made a reputation of sorts for himself in San Francisco, including (oh, the irony) of taking on a much younger lover:  now, as Arthur approaches his fiftieth birthday, young lover Freddy is about to marry someone else -  for Less has refused to give more.  He cannot bear the thought of being an old, infirm burden in the future to someone who means everything to him.  Nope, time to pull the plug – and as for going to the wedding (yes, Less has received an invitation;  the ceremony is in the wine country somewhere) he has hit upon the perfect excuse not to attend:  he has a number of invitations to attend various literary events in different parts of the world, including a 5 week tenure at a Berlin University.  He will accept them all!  Arthur Less will not even be in the country when his darling ties the knot.  Perfect.
            Except, of course, that it isn’t.  Fretting is Less’s middle name;  he worries constantly about things that have occurred, could occur and may never occur, and true to form, glitches and hitches occur with gay abandon at every stage of his odyssey:  the card entry to his flat several floors up in a Berlin apartment building refuses to work (of course it does!), necessitating in a death-defying climb up several balconies to gain entry;  a heinously expensive luxury camel trip into the Moroccan desert laid every other member of the party low with a mysterious illness – except Arthur.  Why wasn’t HE sick?  His beautiful and beloved blue suit is destroyed by a stray dog (truly!) in India, and last but certainly not least, in his research for writing a classy foodie review of a rare Japanese cuisine, he is trapped in a 400 year-old restaurant – because the door to the room in which he is dining is stuck.  Because it is 400 years old.
            But all these distractions (and I listed only a few) have done nothing to take his mind off the fact that Freddy is now married and enjoying an idyllic honeymoon in the Paradise of Tahiti with his new husband.  Arthur can imagine almost to the minute what they will be doing and when;  all his attempts to distract himself from the horrible reality of being without Freddy have come to nothing.  He must face his future without his love.
            Fittingly, Andrew Sean Greer was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for this superlative little love story.  He proves himself over and over as the master of metaphor, and shows us that comedy is as essential to the human condition as its opposite.  I feel very blessed to have read this lovely book, and I’ll go travelling with Arthur any old time.  Less is definitely more!  SEVEN STARS, SO THERE!!!  

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